Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the category “RhondaJo Boomington”

You’re Perfect – by RhondaJo Boomington

It is with sadness that I write my last post for Left Coast Voices.

I have enjoyed our Saturday chats. Of course, I had expectations that our time together would be longer. But, who knows, the way the Universe unfolds, perhaps we shall meet again at a different time in a different space. I am beginning a weekly blog entitled sappysoutherner. You can find me at http://sappysoutherner.wordpress.com/

When I joined the Left Coast Voices, the stated expectations were no racism, no sexism, no homophobia and no discrimination. Perhaps I was naive, but with those guidelines, I had differing expectations than what has occurred.  The time has come for me to say goodbye to Left Coast Voices.

The primary explanations of why I am leaving were posted as a comment to the feminism blog this week and I do not feel a need to respond further.

I’ll leave you with an intriguing adventure I had this week.

On Sunday night, I attended the East Bay Open Circle satsang in Berkeley. Benjamin Smythe, whom I had never heard of, was the speaker for the evening.

Before Sunday night, Pema Chodron was my all-time favorite teacher. Now it’s Benjamin Smythe (even though he may cringe at being called a teacher).

Ben travels around the world, holding a sign that says “You’re Perfect.”

He is neither selling anything nor buying anything. Just spreading his message.

I spent a few hours with him on Wednesday. Sitting on UC Berkeley campus, holding the sign.

It was delightful to spend time with him. And to see the responses (and non-responses) of people passing by.

So, as I say goodbye, I’ll leave you with, perhaps the most important message of our day

Benjamin Smythe at UC Berkeley

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RhondaJo Boomington is a Southern transplant from North Carolina. She landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and never plans to leave. Formerly a fundamentalist who voted for Jesse Helms many times, she now relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area and is frustrated that Obama is a bit too conservative. She has earned a J.D. and an MDiv., and performs in the Bay Area as a stand up comedian and solo performance artist. She can be reached at rhondajoboomington@yahoo.com .  Watch for RhondaJo’s new blog sappysoutherner on wordpress.com and her upcoming debut on twitter as sappysoutherner.

Fat liberation – by RhondaJo Boomington

Buddah Seems Happy - and Not Thin

I attended a Fat Liberation class on Monday night. I had never even heard of such of thing and had no idea what to expect.

Even more intriguing to me was the fact that it was held at East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland (EBMC).

EBMC opened it’s doors about five years ago – specifically to welcome those who are often not welcomed at many local Buddhist Centers – specifically people of color; LGBTQI folk (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex) and people whose disabilities make a traditional sit challenging. And, amazingly, all of their programming is offered on a donation basis – insuring that economic circumstances do not hinder anyone’s ability to participate.

What a model for the rest of the world!

So, off I went to Fat Liberation class. After all – in every Buddhist group of which I have been a part of (and that’s quite a number), the people (except for me)  were exclusively thin. Very thin.  I’ve always thought it rather humorous that all of these thin people quietly sit around breathing. And almost always there’s is a statue somewhere around of a Buddha with a fat belly. But in my experience, many of these Buddhists haven’t achieved a state of non-attachment when it comes to prejudices against those who are not thin (sounds like great material for a future comedy routine : )

So, on Monday night – for the first time in my life, I sat in a room of about 25 people. None of whom were thin. And all of whom were meditating together. No longer “the other.”

It was a very intriguing and healing experience.

I do realize that perhaps the majority of people reading this post are thin. I am writing this post because I believe that the most powerful part of my Fat Liberation evening many be beneficial to you. Yes you.

I challenge you to spend ten minutes of your time expanding your horizon.

Here’s the simple instructions. Find another person. Sit (or stand) facing each other. For five minutes, one person (person A) will ask a question. The other person (person B) will answer. Person A then says “thank you” (and absolutely nothing more). And Person A asks the question again. Person B answers. Person A says “thank you.” And asks the question again, etc. At the end of five minutes, the two switch roles.

Now – here’s the question. “What would it be like if you offered kindness to your body. Just as it is. In this moment?”

When the instructor explained this exercise, I’ll admit. I rolled my eyes. And thought that this was one of the dumbest things I had been asked to do in a long time. But I did it. And I’m so glad that I did. It was so illuminating. And,from the discussion afterward, it was for everyone in the room.

Go ahead. It’s just ten minutes. It may transform the relationship you have with your body.

Compassion for Everyone - Including Yourself

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RhondaJo Boomington is a Southern transplant from North Carolina. She landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and never plans to leave. Formerly a fundamentalist who voted for Jesse Helms many times, she now relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area and is frustrated that Obama is not liberal enough. She has earned a J.D. and an MDiv., and performs in the Bay Area as a stand up comedian and solo performance artist.

Generic Drug Makers Off the Hook – by RhondaJo Boomington

from fda.gov

A recent United States Supreme Court ruling takes away the rights of generic drug users to sue drug manufacturers for failing to list adequate warning labels on their drugs. The name brand drug users retain the rights to sue in identical circumstances.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Sonia Sotomayer wrote “”As a result of today’s decision, whether a consumer harmed by inadequate warnings can obtain relief turns solely on the happenstance of whether her pharmacist filled her prescription with a brand-name or generic drug. The court gets one thing right: This outcome ‘makes little sense.’ ”

from pharmhealth.wordpress.com

I am pleased that Sotomayer points out the fact that this opinion is flawed. Yet, it is not “happenstance” in many cases, as to why a person receives a generic drug versus a brand name drug. For many people, a generic drug is the only financial option. Additionally, several drug plans require that a generic, if available, must be used instead of the brand name drug.

The state of our nation’s healthcare is definitely in crisis. And in taking away the legal incentive for generic drug makers to provide adequate warnings to it’s consumers, the United States Supreme Court has assured that our healthcare will continue in a scary and distressing direction.

In these economic times, the benefits of being rich are continually escalating. Still, I am surprised that now it is only those who can afford to spend the money on brand name drugs who will be covered from harm due to pharmacy company mislabeling.

Broken Piggy Bank

Broken Piggy Bank

Throw away society – including people. By Rhondajo Boomington

Throw Away Society – People Included

Marie Joseph, a 36 year old Massachusetts woman, accompanied a neighbor’s child to a public pool this past Sunday. She slipped and drowned by 2pm that afternoon – and lay at the bottom of the pool for two days. During those two days, the pool remained open.  As usual, people swam and frolicked. And two city inspectors came by to inspect the pool, noticing the cloudy water, but did nothing. Marie’s body floated to the top of the pool on Tuesday evening, where it was discovered by kids, who had jumped over the pool fence after hours.

The child who accompanied Marie to the pool immediately went to the lifeguard on Sunday afternoon. Told the lifeguard that Marie slipped at the slide, went under the water and never resurfaced. The lifeguard took no action. The child tried to locate her, but was not successful.

Evidently the deep end of the pool was cloudy, and so the lifeguard chose not to follow up on this reported drowning. That night, Marie’s cell phone was found at the pool and the police were notified. But no one had reported Marie missing. So nothing happened – until two days later when she floated to the surface.

This tragic death should never have occurred. And various explanations will surely be unearthed now that every investigator in town finally cares about Marie.

Through the multifaceted lens of tragedy, the one image that screams out above the rest for me is one of class, poverty, privilege and race.

Certainly we liberal, educated, caring people would never have allowed something like this to happen in our neighborhood.

But my point is, something like this would not have happened in our neighborhood.

The water in the pool was so cloudy that no one could see at all through the water at the deep end. But their pool remained open, business as usual. We would never have stood for our children swimming in such water.

And, if we were to report a drowning and get no response from a lifeguard – we would raise a ruckus. Call 9-1-1 and the police ourselves. We have the freedom to do that because of the privilege to which we have become accustomed.

A few years ago, I regularly attended a largely African-American church in Oakland for about a year. During that time, I became acutely aware of the differing messages that my white, Berkeley neighborhood kids were getting versus those of the church kids. The parents taught the neighborhood kids certain lessons, ensuring that they would have tools to be successful in their world. The kids learned that their opinions matter. That  respectfully and forcefully asserting their rights gives them the power to change their corner of the world.

In contrast, the focus for the kids at church (particularly males) was how avoid being unjustly jailed. (And yes, many church members knew of numerous cases where relatives had been unjustly jailed). Adults taught the kids that being quiet, even if it was clear the authorities were wrong, was the way to avoid jail. The kids learned that increasing power in their corner of the world occurs by remaining silent enough to avert  bringing attention to themselves. Only then can they have the opportunity to receive an education, to remain free, marry and raise families.

So – if the child of Marie’s neighbor learned those same lessons, this story makes more sense. The child told the lifeguard that Marie had gone to the bottom of the pool and not resurfaced. The lifeguard ignored him. If it had been you or I – we would have raised a ruckus and made sure the authorities were called. Perhaps this boy feared that raising a ruckus would only land him in juvenile detention.

With this explanation, Marie’s story makes more sense. But makes it even more tragic than meets the eye.

Being Gay – Rhondajo Boomington

As a former fundamentalist, who grew up continually hearing – from the pulpit at church – that “homosexuals make God vomit,” I have a true appreciation for Pride Weekend – and for living in my beloved Berkeley.

Here, people are more likely to judge me for being overweight or for not being independently wealthy than because I am a lesbian. That’s a huge relief.

Yes, of course, there’s still tons of homophobia here in the Bay Area. But at least the norm is not to express it openly.

When I go to North Carolina, people stare at me a lot. When I walk into a restaurant, heads turn, people glance at each other, staring disapprovingly. My hair is too short. I’m not wearing make-up. I’m not dressed in frilly clothes. And I’m not bashing my eye lashes at anyone. Often when I order, the wait staff will say “you’re not from around here – are you?”

My brother has warned me that when I visit, I need to stay within about a 20 mile radius of their town. Else “you won’t be safe if you go any further out.”

I came out to my Mom about eleven years ago, and left it up to her to share – or not share – that information with people in her world.

When I flew home, alone, five years ago on a red-eye,  my brother and my Mom picked me up at the airport. We went directly to my favorite restaurant for breakfast. I almost choked on my country ham when my brother said “well – Daddy told me ‘go pick her up at the airport. If she’s alone – bring her back here. But if she’s got anybody with her, she’s not coming under my roof.'” My Mom’s eyes got big – but she remained silent.

I  took a deep breath. Practiced all that fancy breathing I learned at those Buddhist retreats in Berkeley. I announced that would be staying with my friends, 60 miles away, rather than with my parents. I could see the pain in my Mom’s eyes.

My brother – honestly being earnest said “Now Rhondajo, just calm down. You’re getting worked up over nothing. You know how Daddy is with his dog. He loves that dog. More than anything. But that dog is an outdoor dog – and he is never coming into Daddy’s house.”

I was livid. I did more of that breathing – and practicing non-attachment.  I had flown 3,000 miles to see my family, and didn’t know when – or if – I would be back. By the end of the meal, I told my brother “while I am here, we’re talking about two things. And two things only. Country music and food.” And he took me to my parents’ house.

Given that having a gay child is the ultimate shame, I was more surprised that someone had told my father that I was gay – than I was with his reaction.

So – here in the Bay Area, we will be inundated by Gay Pride this weekend. But, remember, there’s still a lot of prejudice out there. Right now.

When you hear a homophobic  joke, please don’t just pretend you didn’t hear it.

If you have a gay person in your life, give her or him an extra big, warm hug this weekend.

And if you don’t have a gay person in your personal circle of friends – it’s a great time to embrace a bit more diversity.

Happy Pride Weekend!

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RhondaJo Boomington is a Southern transplant from North Carolina. She landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and never plans to leave. Formerly a fundamentalist who voted for Jesse Helms many times, she now relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area and is frustrated that Obama is not liberal enough. She has earned a J.D. and a Masters of Divinity, and  enjoys performing in the Bay Area as a stand up comedian and solo performance artist. Contact her at rhondajoboomington@yahoo.com

RhondaJo Performing

Just a quick note to let you know that RhondaJo will be performing her comedy act on Monday in Berkeley. Insider rumors suggest that her act is “Church Night – Southern Style .v. Bay Area Lesbian Style”.I Kind of speaks for itself!

RhondaJo performing Monday

In the words of Marga: “Rhonda Jo Boomington AKA The Sappy Southerner returns to Marga’s Funny Mondays with more wild stories told in her winning drawl.”

RhondaJo will be one of five  comics performing with all kinds of topics. It will be a great night!

Monday June 20 – 8pm  (doors open at 7:30)
2120 Allston Way (between Shattuck and Oxford, 1 block from Berkeley BART), Berkeley

I will be in SF for a board meeting at Hillel, the non profit that I run. Sorry to miss it, RhondaJo. Break a leg!

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Living Without a Car in Berkeley – RhondaJo Boomington

Since moving to the Bay Area, for the first time in my life, I am living car-free. I love riding BART though I don’t particularly love AC transit and MUNI. I feel deeply grateful to live in an area that makes car free living relatively painless much of the time.

Car free (from vancitybuzz.com)

And bless the hearts of my friends, with cars, who help out occasionally with some of the heavy things I can’t negotiate without a vehicle.

In Berkeley, however, I have become accustomed to a certain degree of discrimination when people learn that I don’t have a car. Often there’s a certain look that comes across their face. A judgment.

And, incredibly, it’s often the most vocal environmentalists who seem to have this reaction.

Last year, I was at a well attended meeting at a church that I had attended regularly.  A very middle class, “oh so environmentally friendly,” progressive church who “welcomes diversity.”  A drenching rainstorm began.

I had injured my ankle that afternoon, and for the first time ever,  I asked if there was anyone who may be able to give me a ride home. I lived about a mile away.

There was absolute dead silence.

I was very wet by the time I limped home in the torrential rain.

Drenching wet (from cbsnews.com)

Maybe their disdain was simply because of my Southern accent, the fact that I’m not slim, not hip and am happily frumpy?

But now, I have witnessed similar reactions in various places – to others who live a car free life.

And, right before it went out of business , I was in the beloved Elephant Pharmacy, and my worst fears were confirmed.

While buying my monthly AC transit pass, the guy working behind the counter asked if I had a car. I said “no.” He went on a pained, quiet tirade about the discrimination he experienced in Berkeley because he didn’t own a car. And the most blatant slights seemed to be from the most fervent environmentalists.

Hmm. And – he had no accent, was quite young and slim and hip and styled perfectly for Berkeley.

I wonder why (from info.gtilite.com)

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RhondaJo Boomington is a Southern transplant from North Carolina. She landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and never plans to leave. Formerly a fundamentalist who voted for Jesse Helms many times, she now relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area. She has earned a J.D. and a Masters of Divinity, and  enjoys performing in the Bay Area as a stand up comedian and solo performance artist.

Oil sands in Canada – should we? RhondaJo Boomington

From Alon – RhondaJo is joining our team. Please click here (or scroll down) to get acquainted. Over to you, RhondaJo:

Last night, at dinner with a young fellow who is working at the Canadian Consulate this summer, I got a crash course on the Oil Sands of Canada.

The oil sands consist of oil that is encased in a type of thick sludge, which has the consistency of cold molasses at room temperatures. According to the New York Times, “Canadian oil sands are expected to become America’s top source of imported oil this year, surpassing conventional Canadian oil imports and roughly equaling the combined imports from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait”

Some people believe that oil sands are the answer to the United States’ unfulfilled need for oil that we can not produce. There’s no drilling in the ocean, no wrangling over supply from the Mid East. Just essentially an unlimited supply from a friendly neighbor.

Ah – but there’s a but. Isn’t there always – when we’re jockeying for the oil that we need?

The process of separating of the oil from the sludge  is dirty business, creating vast amounts of greenhouse emissions, far surpassing those created from drilling. And forests are ravaged in the process.

By 2030, oil sands are production may make up 36% of United States oil imports. There are plans to build a pipeline from Canada to transport the oil to Texas. The latest word is that the State Department is “inclined to approve the line on energy security grounds.”

Then the EPA will weigh in. The EPA may attempt to involve Obama – and Obama may simply stay out of the fray and suggest the two entities compromise amongst themselves.

I am not advocating for the use of oil sands. I am suggesting that oil sands are a reality about which we should learning more.

Yes, we should pursue biofuels (which is the research project of  another dinner companion that night). And electric cars and new fangled car designs that can ensure that our future is less dependent upon oil.

Cars of our future?

But in the meantime, my relatives, along with millions of others in middle America have to drive their older, gas guzzling cars to their job at the factory. To keep our economy going. To keep their families going.

Factory Worker

In getting the oil we need to live now – bad things will happen to the environment somewhere. It’s simply a fact.

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RhondaJo Boomington landed in the haven of Berkeley six years ago and she never plans to leave. Formally a fundamentalist from North Carolina, she always voted for for Jesse Helms. Now she relishes her liberal lesbian life in the Bay Area. Her  J.D.  and a Masters of Divinity degree provides great material for her gigs as a stand up comic and solo performance artist.

Introducing RhondaJo Boomington

Left Coast Voices is proud to share that our Saturday slot will now feature RhondaJo Boomington. RhondaJo brings a sharp Southern wit to the team. In a recent post, I asked what we could do to improve Left Coast Voices and the lack of a woman’s voice was what seemed to be most prominent.

RhondaJo Boomington

RhondaJo hails from North Carolina and relishes her liberal life in Berkeley. The past decade has been a series of adventures as she transitioned from a fundamentalist Southern wife to a Bay Area single artist.

Though she never went to a movie theater until she was 30 years old (because it was perceived as sinful), she is now building a reputation as a stand-up lesbian comic and performance artist in Berkeley and San Francisco.

She tells me that she voted for Jesse Helms a number of times and now, though an Obama supporter, finds herself increasingly frustrated  because he’s not liberal enough.

RhondaJo grew up in an extremely conservative independent fundamental Baptist blue collar world – and remained within it until she was in her mid-30’s. Bucking the trend, she earned a BA in Sociology, and later a J.D. (she is a member of the North Carolina Bar) and a Master of Divinity degree.

She hass worked in the legal arena focusing on children’s rights, custody issues and domestic violence. As a chaplain, she’s worked in trauma hospitals, specializing in intensive care and the psychiatric units. As a counselor she’s worked in residential settings with young teenage girls who have worked in the sex trade and have been incarcerated for drugs.  Young men who are HIV positive and seniors dealing with mental health issues while transitioning into assisted living.

After an injury sidelined her a couple of years ago, she told me that she spends considerable time pondering how fundamentalists and liberals are so diametrically different but yet sometimes so weirdly similar. The only thing that she’s certain of is that she’s too Berkeley for North Carolina – but maybe too North Carolina for Berkeley.I am sure that she is quite Left Coast enough for our blogging community.

With not quite both feet in the Bay Area, RhondaJo is clear that she n ever plans to leave her beloved Berkeley. I know how you feel. Welcome Aboard, RhondaJo. I’m excited that you have joined our team.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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